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Nonprofit Votes Count!

Question: Why should our nonprofit invest time in helping our employees, community members and volunteers to vote? Don’t political campaigns already do this and won’t it take a lot of time?

Answer: Nonprofit voter engagement is a powerful way for nonprofits to “stand up” for the needs off their communities. Registering people to vote, equipping them with information about what’s on their ballot, and reminding them to vote on election day benefits our communities and our sector, far beyond the outcome of any particular election.

Oftentimes the communities that nonprofits work with (such as people whose primary language isn't English, people of color, and young people) are the same groups political campaigns fail to reach. And we know you’re busy, but not to worry – many Vote with Your Mission activities can be incorporated into work you’re already doing.

Here are the top three reasons nonprofits are so effective at voter engagement:

1) We’re committed: Our board members, volunteers, and staff work every day to strengthen communities and improve the lives of the people they serve. Voting can turn that same energy into better schools, affordable health care, or a cleaner environment.

2) We’re present: There are more than 1 million nonprofit employees in California and more than five million volunteers. Every day, tens of thousands of people walk into our clinics, theatres, attend community fairs, or get help with disabilities. That’s a very effective platform to engage our communities and talk about the importance of voting.

3) We’re trusted: During even the most challenging times, we’ve seen the strong trust communities have in nonprofits and their staff. Nonprofits are nonpartisan, meaning we don’t endorse specific candidates or political parties. That means we can work closely with local election boards, the Secretary of State, and other nonpartisan entities involved in voting.

But don’t just take our word for it check out this research: A study by Nonprofit VOTE in 2018 looked at people under 30 who registered to vote or who signed a voter pledge card because a nonprofit asked them to. They found that nonprofits not only engaged a younger, more diverse electorate but that they also significantly increased the likelihood of those voters showing up on election day and voting. (Report: Nonprofit VOTE: Engaging New Voters: The Impact of Nonprofit Voter Outreach on Client and Community Turnout, March 2018). When nonprofits use our voting power, we advance our missions, make our voices heard and change the world for the better.

The goals of Vote with Your Mission are simple: for nonprofits to mobilize their staff, volunteers, and constituents as voters and for policymakers to appreciate the nonprofit community as a powerful voting force. So get out there and VOTE!


Our nonprofit wants to Vote with Our Mission: Where should we start?

  • Decide how much you can reasonably take on: There’s a lot of ways your nonprofit can get involved, and many of them won’t require big time commitments from your staff. Check out our “Ways Nonprofits Can Vote with Their Mission” page for specific activities you can engage in.
  • Know the rules: Yes, nonprofits can do this! Nonprofit organizations classified as 501(c)(3) public charities may conduct nonpartisan "get-out-the-vote" activities and voter registration without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status. It is a legitimate charitable activity to support voter engagement and educate the public about the importance of voting. We’ve got more details on our Legal FAQs page to help you understand the dos and don’ts.
  • Get registered: A great place to start is inside your own organization, by making sure your staff and volunteers know about voter registration. Visit the Secretary of State’s voter registration website, where information is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, and Tagalog. Registration deadline: The Secretary of State has a website with information on deadlines. Important note: if you miss the deadline to register to vote (it’s 15 days before election day), you can still do a Conditional Voter Registration by going to the office of your county elections official (find yours here) to conditionally register to vote and vote a provisional ballot. Now that California has online registration, it's surprisingly easy! And don't forget, if you have moved since the last election, you will need to re-register.
  • Felonies and voting: The ACLU of Northern California explains that if you have a felony conviction, you cannot vote in California if:  A) You are currently serving a state or federal prison sentence OR  B) You are currently on parole. Your right to vote is automatically restored once you complete your sentence. You just need to register to vote. A misdemeanor NEVER affects your right to vote, and folks on probation are eligible to vote. Need more info? Visit
    Have questions about Vote with Your Mission, or want to share with us what your nonprofit is doing to engage voters? We’d love to hear from you!

Pictures are of attendees at CalNonprofits’ 2018 Policy Convention:
“Nonprofits Standing up for California"

VWYM Photo Collage

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